Montréal is Quebec’s most populated city, making it a vibrant cultural scene that blends a rich history with new beginnings. Enjoy plenty of outdoor activities to keep you moving like surfing a river, or learning about environmentalism at one of the city’s many museums. With a long history, you’ll feel right at home in this urban region with plenty of places to see and dining experiences that’ll never leave you hungry for more. Learn where to stay, where to go, and what to try in the great city of Montréal.
No ocean - no problem; at least when you’re visiting Montréal. The St. Lawrence River offers an unforgettable experience, river surfing. Thanks to the standing wave that flows over a rock to create surf-able waves, this spot is perfect for experienced or beginner surfers. If you don’t want to pack your board, or if you’re looking for lessons on how to surf a river, hop over to KSF LaSalle for all your river surfing needs. If you’re looking for other water activities, they have you covered there as well. Kayak or white water raft down the famous river. And don’t forget to keep your eyes open for the iconic Habitat 67, a model housing community known for its lego-like structure.
Spending a day at the river will definitely work your appetite, so if you’re feeling extra hungry head to Provisions 1268. This restaurant may take you a bit out of your comfort zone, but when in Montréal - eat like a local. And local it is indeed...this restaurant offers a rotating menu, the price of which is market-driven. Their motto is “family style, like you would eat at home”, so get ready to taste test and share. For $65 you’ll nosh on a surprise 5-course meal. Just make sure to pack some loose clothing…
“Family-style” apparently is pretty big in Montréal, or at least that’s how it looks at Apt. 200. This local watering hole is set-up like an apartment, complete with a den, living room, and even a bedroom. Don’t worry, you won’t fall asleep in this chill pad, the bar also as a pool table, arcade games, and a hockey table (it is Canada, after all). All of Montréal's cool kids will be at this house - er - bar party.
Montréal is full of rich history and is home to a very special cathedral. So special, in fact, that the man who built it is buried in it. This crypt/cathedral was built in 1824 by James O’Donnell, who was inspired by Gothic Revival architecture. This anything-but-subtle style of architecture is an absolute work of art. With sky-scraping ceilings, intricate carvings, stained glass, and shades of blues and golds splashed throughout, it is not your average cathedral. The most impressive part of the Notre Dame Basilica is the wall of sanctuary. With golden arches, blue stained glass, and various sculptures, it is a sight to be seen. Or not seen, as the backlighting effect blinded many congregations in its time.
With as much history and art that’s present in Montréal, it just makes sense for their accommodations to live up to the same expectation. LHotel is a boutique art hotel located in Old Montréal. This French Revival building has been guarding the streets of Old Montréal since 1870 and promises a series of refurbished rooms so you can truly cherish the history of the city. Close to the Notre Dame Basilica, museums, and the Underground City, LHotel puts you in the center of plenty of attractions... and, of course, a cool vibe.
When it comes to city planning, up isn’t always better. In Montréal, think subterranean. The Underground City is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions and it’s easy to see why. With 20 miles of shopping, dining, and even art, there’s so much to do beneath the city. You can even stay here, as there are several hotels that are connected to the Underground City itself.
There is no better way to get acquainted with a city, and its people, than by spending a day at the local market. There’s something very telling about the foods we buy, and the conversations we hold, especially in a village-like atmosphere. The Jean-Talon Market is the ultimate spot to try high quality, seasonal foods. If you’re stumped on what to buy, try attending one of their many workshops or demonstrations. And if you’d rather not cook at all, there are plenty of restaurants at the market to try instead.
Try a picnic after the market and chill out like a local at La Fontaine Park. This 84-acre urban park has lots to offer. With two linked ponds (complete with waterfalls and a fountain), outdoor swimming pools, bike paths, tennis courts, and more, this is a popular attraction for those that call Montréal home. If you’d rather just relax with a nice glass of wine, you can also do that here. Just be sure you have some food leftover from the market to enjoy with your alcoholic beverage. Thanks to Montréal's “picnic rule”, you can legally drink alcoholic beverages in parks, so long as you have food to accompany it.
Montréal is home to a lot of nature museums, and if you’re feeling especially buggy, hop over to Space for Life. This museum center has four main attractions: the Biodome, Gardens and Greenhouses, Insectarium, and the Planetarium. The Biodome recreates various ecosystems from North and South America, like the tropical rainforest, Laurentian Maple Forests, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Labrador Coast and Sub-Antarctic Islands. At the Gardens and Greenhouses, walk through thirty thematic gardens, including traditional Chinese gardens, Arid regions, toxic plant gardens, medicinal gardens, and more. As one of the largest insect exhibit in the world, the Insectarium allows you to safely learn about some of our smallest inhabitants on Earth. And, If you’re starting to have a bit of an existential crisis, visit the last center in Space for Life, the Planetarium. Here you can unlock the secrets of the universe like how did life begin on Earth, or are there other beings in space? (Spoiler alert: there totally are. Source: me.)
You can’t go to Montréal and not eat authentic French cuisine. With white subway tiles on the walls, warm wood cabinets, and plenty of natural ferns, Cafe Bazin offers French fare in a relaxed and cozy atmosphere. Enjoy French classics like croissants, boeuf bourguignon, or terrine. The menu offers a variety of flavours, all at an affordable price.
Basement bars are a thing, and we should really cherish this. With a dim intimate setting, illuminated only by good times and Vietnamese lanterns, Nhau is the most seductive bar you’ll ever walk into. The food and cocktail menu is pan-Asian inspired, so it has something for everyone on the menu. Their signature cocktails come in tiki-inspired drinkware and cans. Ah, yes, the lesser known tiki drinkware: a can. No, it isn’t really tiki-themed to use a can, but nonetheless you can order the Tamarindo which comes in a can. The drink is a fusion of soju, tamarin, piment arbol, tonka, ananas, pamplemousse, and biere. Refreshing, yet exotic!
If you’re looking to stay in a vintage/bohemian neighborhood, definitely book a stay at the pearl white, Italian chateau-inspired Casa Bianca. Located in Plateau Mont-Royal, this bed and breakfast overlooks the beautiful Mount Royal Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. If you’ve never heard of him, all you need to know is that he also designed Central Park (yes, that very famous park in New York City). But back to the B&B. It offers some spectacular amenities that will make it hard to ever leave. Each room comes equipped with a claw foot tub and minimalist decor so you can truly relax. If you really need to unwind, you can take a yoga class from the in-house yoga instructor. Enjoy an organic breakfast here and sleep a little sounder knowing that this B&B is also green. Casa Bianca prides itself on using biodegradable cleaning products, 100% organic cotton sheets, and natural personal cleaning shampoos and soaps.
Since you’ll be so close to Mount Royal Park when you stay at Casa Bianca, you absolutely cannot miss out on the free festival that happens there every Sunday. The Tam-Tams is the name of this fun festival that features music by drum players, food/drink vendors, and dancing. In addition to the music, you’ll also find merchant vendors set up around the festival to find your next vintage thread or craft jewelry. You can find the festival near the Sir George-Étienne Cartier monument and Fletcher’s Field - or just follow the sound of the drums. The festivities usually start around noon - so make sure you drink plenty of coffee, as the fun continues to sunset. This event draws diverse crowds, perfect for mingling.
Plus, since Montréal got its name from Mount Royal, you owe it to yourself to visit! While you're visiting the park, you can take advantage of other cool features like the snow tube and toboggan run, cross-country skiing trails, the sculpture garden and Smith House, an interpretive centre. The forests here are especially lovely in autumn, but they were once even more dense; they've been ravaged by ice storms and a mayor's so-called "morality cuts" in the 1950s (he wasn't a fan of catching people knockin' boots in the woods.)
If you aren’t travelling with a lot of friends, just make some new ones at Montréal's wax museum! At least they will always agree with you, unlike your non-wax friends. Grevin Montréal has over 120 celebrity wax figures. Here you can hang out with our favourite Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, or sing along with Katy Perry. It isn’t just about the celebrities though, this wax museum also has other exhibits, like the Hall of Wonder, where you can experience all four seasons in one single walkthrough.
Montréal's temperate summers and mild autumns and springs mean the weather is ideal for a trip here for a good chunk of the year. Summers tend to be a bit more crowded, as people are drawn to the cooler temps and scores of events. If cost is your main concern, aim for fall. And, honestly, don't sleep on winter either; the Underground is heated and makes travelling between attractions actually pleasant!